Steven Adams is far and away the best basketball player from New Zealand right now. As such, the Tall Blacks are eager to get Adams to come and play for them. Adams refused the invitation to play for his home country during the 2014 Basketball World Cup, preferring to focus on his basketball education in the United States.
However, this year, it appears Adams may play for the Tall Blacks for the first time. From a recent SBS article:
"[Steven Adams] wants to play - there's no doubt about that," Henare said on Wednesday. "It all comes down to what his management and the OKC management think is best for him."
It's interesting that Adams might choose to debut for the Tall Blacks this year. Since it's an odd numbered year, national teams are only playing against teams of their region. As such, many marquee players are sitting the year out. The Thunder's own Serge Ibaka and Enes Kanter are notable examples. Without the allure of the Olympics or World Championship, it's rare for a player to want to risk injury for little pay.
This year will have some minor significance for New Zealand, though. The Tall Blacks will play in a two game series against Australia to determine who gets an automatic berth to the 2016 Olympics. The loser of that series will be forced into an Olympic Qualifying tournament, to be held in the weeks prior to the Olympics next year.
Most national teams will have to play over ten meaningful games against quality opponents, while New Zealand and Australia will only have to play two. This is because New Zealand and Australia are all alone in the "Oceania" region. Technically, the Oceania region is comprised of several Pacific island nations. Realistically, none of those nations have the financial means to field a competitive basketball team. The last time an island team participated in the Oceania championship was 1997. During that championship, New Caledonia lost their games against Australia and New Zealand by a total of 187 points.
With New Zealand slated to play in only two very important games, the situation is ideal for Adams to step in. Adams can account for his country's lack of size in the paint, with little risk to his long term health. Serge Ibaka will be participating in an exhibition game for NBA Africa on August 1st. What's the difference if Adams logs twice that amount of time?
Of course, there's more time involved. Adams will, of course, have to practice with his new team. New Zealand will participate in three exhibition matches, as well as field a team for the insignificant Stankovic cup. But none of the exhibitions will be strictly necessary. Even though camp convened today, New Zealand basketball officials are more than willing to let Adams come late.
In any case, the FIBA Oceania Championship is scheduled to go down on August 15th and 18th. Team New Zealand will not have legend Kirk Penney, and will mostly feature players from Australia's National Basketball League. Team Australia will certainly feature Andrew Bogut. Also in the potential mix for Australia are Aron Baynes, Patty Mills, Dante Exum, Matthew Dellavadova, Joe Ingles, and Cameron Bairstow. Additionally, highly touted draft prospects Ben Simmons and Thon Maker could make appearances. Should Adams choose to appear, he may have his work cut out for him.